Waking – Jessica Walker

Breakfasts were lettuce leaves (10 calories)
smothered in mustard and sriracha (5.)
Brother cringed behind overflowing cereal,
milk flowing into a sugary rainbow,
while I devoured my ration.

Afternoons were carbonated waters and
two rice cakes (45 calories each) slathered in salsa (20 per tablespoon)
leaving dad wondering why the house smelled
like a nursing home—rotting
cabbage and soiled diapers
when his teenaged daughter drifted past.

Dinner was a feast: two egg whites (34 calories) with an apple (80)
Maybe an orange (70)
Godforbid never a banana (120.)
Earning mother’s praise for how “good” I was.
Holy and pure, a skeletal epitome of health
ejecting brownies
when all I longed for was the night.

Sleep. Sleep away the numbers, little girl.
The calories burned, the calories not consumed.
Wrap your icicle toes in blankets,
Close your tired eyes, your barely humming heart,
and wait until morning.

If it comes.
But for now,